HERSHEY — It took nine years, but the St. Marys wrestling program finally found its way back to the podium at the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Championships.
And, it was senior Tyler Dilley who put them there after putting together a strong weekend in Hershey — one capped by a 5-0 victory against Nazareth’s Drew Clearie in the 132-pound fifth-place match.
Dilley (36-7) turned Clearie for three backpoints from the top position just past the midway point of the second period, then sealed his career-ending victory on a reversal with 1:08 left in the third period. In the process, he became St. Marys’ first state medalist since Sean Sadosky also placed fifth at 215 pounds in 2010.
He also is the first medalist for current head coach Dom Surra, who was an assistant back in 2010 when Sadosky landed on the podium in long-time coach Wayne Fordoski’s last year sitting in the corner for the Dutchmen.
The medal had extra special meaning for Dilley, who missed all of last year with a knee injury after reaching states as a sophomore. Dilley went 1-2 in his first trip to the Giant Center but went 4-2 this past weekend.
“It took a lot of hard work to get here,” said Dilley. “It wasn’t the ultimate goal — obviously I’d love to be a lot higher — but in this sport you never know what’s going to happen. You have to be thankful for the opportunities you’re given and make the most of them.
“After losing a tough one in the quarters, I had two choices ... either battle back and make the most of or put my head down and not get a state medal I’ve been working hard for the past four years. I decided to keep my head up and go for it.”
Dilley also was proud to get Surra his first medal as head coach.
“It’s been a while since we won a medal,” said Dilley. “Dom has put a lot of hard work into me, and it’s awesome to win a medal for him.”
“What a good way to end the tournament,’ said Surra. “Tyler wrestled a really good tournament. That first match (win) was really key in getting a good bracket placement. He was just steady the whole time, but it was super tough taking the draw we got with two, two-time state champs (Hillegass and eventual winner Julian Chlebove of Northampton) on same side as him.
“But, to come back and win some matches and place fifth as a senior to cap off an outstanding career was great. There is no kid more deserving of that than him after being out last year and all the work he did to get back to where he is now.”
After a thrilling 5-4 win against Harry S. Truman’s Gunnar Fuss in Thursday’s first round, Dilley went 1-1 on Friday.
He fought hard in a 6-0 quarterfinal loss to North Hills junior Sam Hillegass, a two-time defending state champ who went to place third this year.
That loss dropped Dilley in the third round of consolations, where he bested Mechanicsburg’s Nick Tewell, 6-2, to guarantee himself his first state medal. Dilley sealed the win with an escape and takedown in the final 22 seconds.
With a medal already in his pocket, Dilley returned Saturday morning and beat Red Land’s Bryce Brennan, 3-1, on a takedown with 28 seconds remaining in their consolation semifinal bout.
Dutchmen’s run in the consy bracket ended there, as returning state medalist Gabe Willochell of Latrobe upended Dilley, 6-3, in the consolation semifinals. Willochell then lost 9-2 to Hillegass in the third-place match.
As for Dilley, he bounced back Saturday night to end his career on a high note with the 5-0 win against Clearie.
Dilley finished his career with a 90-16 record despite missing a whole year.